The African Development Bank (ADB) held its Annual Meeting in India this month, the first time ADB has held this meeting outside of the African continent. During his keynote address, ADB President Akinwunmi Adesina highlighted the importance of agribusiness to the continued transformation of economies across the continent. To those who know him and those who are following Africa’s recent economic trends, it should not be a surprise that President Adesina focused his remarks on the importance of further commercializing agriculture. This former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria and Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has a passion for rural development and proven track record of reforms that have benefitted many across the continent. He was even recognized by Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform efforts in the Nigerian agriculture sector to help make as many “millionaires, maybe even billionaires, from agriculture as possible.” Moreover, recent turbulence in petroleum prices has resulted in greater focus by African officials and economists on agribusiness as a way to reduce Africa’s dependence on the fortunes of the petroleum markets.
During his address at the ADB this week, Adesina made the point that “[a]griculture is not a development activity or a social sector: it’s the biggest money-making business in the world.” In order to further industrialize the sector to the benefit of stakeholders ranging from the smallest of subsistence farmers to conglomerates leasing land from governments, technological investments, and infrastructure development will be prioritized. According to Adesina, unlocking the full potential of the agribusiness sector requires access to electricity. The two – universal access to electricity and agricultural transformation – are inextricably linked. President Adesina previously announced during his inaugural address at the ADB that the bank will focus on efforts to unlock investment in both areas as part of the High 5s initiative which is designed to: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. Focusing on these areas as the core of its investment strategies will support the bank’s ambitious 10-year development goals.
It seems clear from emerging data and substantive commentary that there are many opportunities for international companies to get involved with and invest in the High 5 areas. Investments are required in, among other sectors, clean renewable energy, sustainable water resource management, supply of farming equipment and cold storage containers, processing plants and even physical infrastructure such as roads, rails and ports to move goods across the continent are integral. The ADB makes it clear that it is open to business to help fund these initiatives by leveraging its funds to support these types of transformative projects.